From filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and showrunner Carlton Cuse, The Strain tells the story of an epic battle for survival between man and vampire. When Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Center for Disease Control in New York City, and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak that is eerily similar to an ancient and evil strain of vampirism, they quickly realize that they are waging war for the fate of humanity itself. The show also stars David Bradley, Mia Maestro, Sean Astin, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Kevin Durand, Miguel Gomez, Natalie Brown and Jack Kesy.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Kevin Durand talked about how he came to be a part of The Strain, what attracted him to the project, understanding who Vasiliy Fet is, how become a part of a team has changed things for him, whether he has any guilt or regret for his actions, what fans can expect from the rest of the season, and how satisfied he is with the way things wrap up this season. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
KEVIN DURAND: Thank you! I’m excited about that.
How did you come to this show? Had you been looking to do a TV series, or could you just not pass up a TV series from Guillermo del Toro?
DURAND: I’ve become a really big fan of cable television, over the past couple of years, like probably 99% of the population. I wasn’t looking for a show, in particular. I was working on a bunch of really cool films that I was excited about. But then, I got a phone call that Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse wanted to sit down. So, I was like, “Yeah, put me in that meeting, for sure.” I had three days before meeting them, and I read the first book. I thought, “How fun. What a great project to be a part of. It’s just pure escapism.” I just had so much fun. I read the book in less than three days, so I thought it would be a good time. When Guillermo told me that he wanted me to be Vasiliy, I just felt honored that they wanted me on the journey, and here we are.
Guillermo del Toro knows how to bring a highly imaginative vision to life, and Carlton Cuse really knows how to tell an ongoing story on TV. When you’re working on a TV series where you never know exactly where the endpoint will be, how reassuring is it to know that you’re in the hands of people like that?
DURAND: It’s great to know that you’re in the hands of these great artists, great people and great visionaries. I’ve worked on shows where people have anxiety attacks, waiting for the next script because they might be dead in the next episode. But with this one, every time I get a script, it keeps getting better for Vasiliy. I’ve been very grateful for that. Having an idea about the skeleton of the story is helpful, too.
This is the type of story and character that you can’t really go out and do first-hand research for. How did you go about understanding who this guy was and finding your performance for him?
DURAND: At first, it started with how he spoke. In the book, it said he was second generation Ukranian, and Guillermo wanted him to have a thick accent. I said, “That doesn’t really make sense to me. I don’t know how to make that make sense.” In my head, he came over when he was 14 or 15 years old, and he’s been here for 20 or 25 years. He’s more Brooklyn than anything. I wanted to find his sound when he spoke because I knew him so well from the books. That was my first thing. I wanted him to represent both places, in the way that he represented himself. In terms of the rat catching, I didn’t go out and do any of that. I thought it was self-explanatory. I did talk to this one guy who was a rat exterminator, and I had two or three conversations with him, just to understand the specifics of the job. That made me understand how somebody who’s incredibly meticulous and obsessive about behavior could rise to the top of his field so quickly. He’s obsessive compulsive, and he loves information. He’s curious to know how different species live and survive. He has a tremendous amount of respect for that ‘cause he knows that long after we’re gone, they’ll still be thriving and he’s fascinated by that. He knows every single thing there is to know about it, as well as every possible thing that you could know about New York City and its underground. I think that’s what makes him so well-suited for the coming vampire apocalypse.
DURAND: Yeah. He doesn’t believe that there are vampires until Episode 8 when Setrakian tells him that. He thinks, “This old guy is fucking out of his mind!” I think he just sees them as vermin. They’re just a bigger problem in the sewers that he has to take care of. He just directly applies his skills to that. He’s straight to the point. You don’t see Eph or Nora or anyone else on the show say, “Okay, give me the specifics for how I can kill them. Tell me exactly what I have to do.” He wants to be good at his new job, and he becomes very good at it. That transition is almost seamless.
Up until Episode 8, your character was really a lone wolf who was piecing together everything on his own. How will becoming part of a team change things for him?
DURAND: I don’t know. I think he’s way more interested in Setrakian than anyone else. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but everything he’s said so far really makes sense. There’s a real synergy between the two, and an understanding between them. It’s more about following him and helping Setrakian in his quest. He’s a smart guy. He knows that the more people that are involved, the better chance they have at survival. I don’t think he necessarily has an interest in being a part of a group, and that adds to the dynamic that ensues.
When Vasiliy executes Jim, it really proved that he’s someone who will do what needs to be done. Does he feel any regret or guilt over that action?
DURAND: I don’t think there’s a whole lot of regret over something that’s already lost. He doesn’t regret the action because, in that short period of time, he already knew that he was a lost cause. He knew, as soon as he saw that worm, but he gives Eph and Nora a little bit of time. When we were shooting that, myself and David [Bradley] just kept looking at each other and going, “Okay, it’s not like, how do we do this? It’s more of, when do we do this? Just give me the nod and I’ll take his head off.” There’s no time for grieving. Grieving will ultimately lead to your own demise, so you just have to make your move and move on. He feels bad that Nora is so distraught and Eph is upset, but at the same time, he doesn’t really know these people, anyway. They’re stupid for thinking that there’s a cure. There’s no cure. The cure is to severe the brain stem. They have to get it because there is no choice.
DURAND: Fet understands that they’re very intelligent people. He apologizes to Nora right away. And he kind of apologizes to Eph when he says, “I did it because you couldn’t.” He feels like he did them a favor, but they didn’t see it that way. Maybe eventually they will. It’s a learning process to figure out how to survive, at that moment in time.
Was that scene challenging to shoot, knowing that you were the one responsible for audiences having to say goodbye to one of the cast members? Does something like that have a different weight when you’re shooting it?
DURAND: The weight there is that everyone likes Sean Astin, and I think he’s just such a tremendous human being. I loved spending time with him. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him because most of my scenes were separate. When we got to Episode 8, I got to hang out with him and I was like, “Man, I really like this guy. It’s a bummer that Vasiliy has to do this.” But at the same time, as a selfish actor, I was thinking, “Wow, what an awesome moment! What a crazy amount of mad energy this will stimulate. It’s great.” I think we were both excited to do it because we knew it would be a major shift in the narrative, and that’s always fun. It’s fun to be responsible for that. Carlton did that to me when I shot Ben Linus’ daughter in the head on Lost. He’s given me these two great moments that turned the world upside down.
Was it logistically challenging to shoot Episode 8, with so much of it being in and around one location?
DURAND: It was really fun for me. I think we all had a lot of fun because it was the first time that we were all together. We really all got to take a look around and talk to each other. We’d had one dinner together, at that point, but we hadn’t really gotten to hang out. It’s such a wonderful group of actors that I really respect and like. It was very stressful because the shot list every day was just insane, but it was like a party. We had a really good time. I was like, “Wow, I could hang out with these people for awhile.” It was really nice.
Anytime you lose a character, things become that much more real. What can you say to tease the remainder of the season?
DURAND: When you have a character like Jim, even though he’s flawed, he made this terrible mistake to save his wife’s life. And even though he made that mistake, you can’t help but feel for him. Now someone that they’re all connected to has gone down, and you’re feeling the claustrophobia and panic over how real things have actually become. There’s a whole new set of rules, in this new world. If you don’t abide by them, then you’ll perish.
DURAND: Mr. Quinlan comes from the ancients. He’s half man, half ancient. I’m not sure where the narrative is going to lead us, at this point, but I’m assuming that we’ll cross paths. In the books, we do. It’s tough to tell when, where and how we’ll cross paths. In the books, he doesn’t come in until way later on, which is the same thing for Vasiliy. But luckily for me, Guillermo and Carlton wanted to start building him earlier, which I’m grateful for. So, we don’t know when different characters are going to meet, and when we’re going to do certain things. That’s exciting for fans of the books. And there are things that are changing, as they’re servicing the TV series. The whole reason Guillermo and Chuck [Hogan] wrote the books is that they wanted to do a TV series, and it’s acting as a really nice, formidable skeleton. We get to build all of the muscle, blood and skin on top of that.
How satisfied are you with the way that things wrap up for your character, this season?
DURAND: Personally, I’m very, very satisfied with it. It’s one of those unusual things where, every day, I was just so excited to read what they were gonna write for me, and write for everyone. And it just kept getting better and better. We would bump into each other in the hallways and go, “I can’t believe what happens to you, in this episode.” We’re all enthusiastic and super excited about going back into Season 2, and getting to explore these characters and this world, beyond where we’ve been. That journey is pretty exciting.
The Strain airs on Sunday nights on FX.